Friday, 25 September 2009

Sue Lyon-Jones and

Sue Lyon-Jones heads a small team that is in the process of producing a complete set of free graded online self-study lessons in British English, and Unit 1 of her Beginners Level courses is now complete, at To get an impression of what the other levels will be like, see the overall website at, and the new lessons she rolls out on her esolcourses blog, The icing on the cake is that she's just started a blog for EFL teachers, called The PLN Staff Lounge. If she's not a part of your PLN - or "Personal Learning Network" in newbie-speak, it's high time you hooked up! Follow her on twitter at

Sunday, 20 September 2009

What is a resourceful teacher?

Scott Thornbury has led a course entitled "Teaching WITHOUT technology" using Moodle at SEETA. In his intro blurb, he posited:
"For many teachers sophisticated technology is not a viable choice in their context. Others have chosen not to use technology out of principle. What principle? That language is a social tool and that language learning is best mediated through the direct contact between real human beings." He asked "Are anti-tech teachers "in denial"?"
Visit the course and look back on the discussion here. The mere fact that this course took place in Moodle and brought together people from many different countries, including people with little money but great ideas, speaks for itself, wouldn't you say?

Marisa Costanides from Greece commented the wrap up with Neil Postman's "Six questions for every technology":

1 - What is the problem to which this technology is a solution?
2 - Whose problem is it?
3 - What new problems might be created BECAUSE we have solved this problem?
4 - Which people and what institutions might be more seriously harmed by a technological innovation?
5 - What changes in language are being enforced by new technologies and what is being gained and lost by such changes?
6 - What new sources of economic and political power will emerge?

See the Neil Postman talk on YouTube (part 1, with links to the following parts) here.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Did you know 4.0

This is another official update to the original "Shift Happens" video. This new Fall 2009 version includes facts and stats focusing on the changing media landscape, including convergence and technology, and was developed in partnership with The Economist. For more information, please visit and

What does it have to do with teaching? Do you notice anything new over what was going on last year around this time? Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

What's the digital divide? It's women against men

James Clay has been named digital technologist of the year at ALT-C 2009. He was the voice of reason yesterday. Here's a funny video he and collegues made at the Digital Divide Slam at ALT-C 2008, referred to on his blog,, today:

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hot debate on Virtual Learning Environments at ALT-C

There was a hot dedate on Virtual Learning Environments (like Moodle) #vle at the ALT-C conference #altc2009 in a session entitled "The VLE is Dead" . With a good degree of inside cheekiness the first speaker summarized that the "e" in elearning stands for evil as a result of VLEs being the normal way education technology is run in schools and colleges. This, he said, is because:

1. One size does not fit all - but VLEs tend to homogenize
2. The student/user does not "own" the VLE - but users want to own the tools they use
3. The VLE is conning academics into creating content (not constructivist approach) which creates an unproductive learning model
4. The VLE is not helful for discoursive teaching, it prevents students from discussing with people outside their institution
5. Teachers can do most stuff with outside, free tools
6. The PLE (personal learning environment) is flexible, while the VLE is cumbersome

Martin Weller tweeted: "if a bomb went off in this room, the UK ed tech scene would be wiped out" - and he is one of the ones to have started the whole debate in his blog.

Yet schools and colleges have to deal with not all teachers having the necessary skills in alternative tools, and not all students using social networks like Facebook and Twitter that would make VLEs obsolete for most student work. (Noone seemed to be debating VLEs as a good place for quizzes and tests.) But the feeling was really quite strong that VLEs are more counterproductive than conducive to learning.

How to blog? Why Blog at all?

In August Karenne Sylvester published what is called a "Blog Carneval", which is a collection of blog posts by many different people, answering her question, "What advice would you give to another TEFL teacher interested in becoming a blogger?" The results at are organized under these headings:
  • On getting started
  • On blogging with students
  • On finding inspiration & writing great content
  • On the effect it can have on your career
  • On stuff to know about
  • On audience
  • On community
  • On commenting
  • Why I blog
The list of bloggers she was able to round up is really impressive, and Ask Auntie Web got in, too. Thanks, Karenne! But go and see for yourself.

Monday, 7 September 2009

ALT-C 2009

The ALT-C 2009, the 16th International Conference of the Association for Learning Technology, will be held at the University of Manchester, England, from 8-10 September 2009.
The keynote speakers are:

Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor Designate at the Open University, UK

Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, USA

Terry Anderson, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Distance Education at Athabasca University, Canada.

Other invited speakers: Jonathan Drori, Heather Fry, Diana Laurillard, Matthew McFall, David Kennedy, Richard Noss, Vanessa Pittard, Aaron Porter and David Price.

Wishing you were there? Watch most presentations, which will be made available in real time using the video conferencing service elluminate at The events calendar is here:

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Storing your files on the www

I know that most people are rather sceptical about the idea of putting their documents on the www, but if you think about it, the www is far less likely to disappear than your hard disk and nowadays you can store a lot of data on sites such as Box or Dropbox for free.

Why bother?

Well, as I've already said, the www is not going to go phut or disappear - you may back up your files on an external disk or USB stick, but external disks cost money whereas these sites don't - well, if you keep the size of the files stored there to between 1 and 50GB (ADrive will let you store and share up to 50GB for free).

If you have a PC and laptop or files that are stored on more than one beast being able to update and sync files can be really useful. Ditto if you work together with other people and need to collaberate on the documents you are putting together. If A updates the document, B automatically sees the latest version without A having to email it to B.

I've just co-authored a book for Longman and whilst we were writing it I uploaded my materials to the Box. Everything was in one place, my co-author could see what I'd written and the editor could access the latest version of the manuscript as well as earlier versions.

I lost about three units and a couple of weeks' work when my hard disk died when I was writing another book, so it was reassuring to know that everything was stored on my PC and the www this time round.

I dare say someone could crack the passwords and get at those materials, but then I dare say someone could also hack my PC if they wanted to, but I don't think the data they'd find there would be worth the time or effort.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Lingorilla wins 2009 World Summit Award

The Berlin-based LinguaTV GmbH today won the coveted biennial World Summit Award (WSA), selected by the UNESCO, the UNIDO and the Internet Society, in the category 'eLearning and Education' for its multimedia language learning platform The jury called it a "state of the art e-Learning website combining all media as well as all functions of the web."

LinguaTV features broadcasts in several languages including English. This web TV station produces language training videos with subtitles and features vocabulary. Users can use professionally produced videos, dictionaries and lessons. Contents licenced by LinguaTV include travel reports and music videos. Interactive exercises allow users to study on their own.

A game-like point system shows how much progress a learner is making and invites learners to compare and compete with each other. The community idea is central to, and learners are invited to find language learning partners from over 150 countries worldwide and to communicate using the integrated video chat function. Groups can hold virtual meetings here, too, e.g. to get together again following a language course or trip.

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, German Minister of Education and Research, congratulated LinguaTV, saying, „Ich freue mich, dass LinguaTVs Bildungsangebot die internationale Jury überzeugen und sich gegen die Konkurrenz aus 170 Ländern durchsetzen konnte. Dies ist auch deshalb so herausragend, weil LinguaTV das mit einer kleinen und noch jungen Firma aus eigener Kraft erreicht hat.“

Lingorilla is currently relaunching their platform, which they have announced will be completed in the next few weeks.

I've signed up as Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Electronic dictionaries

Do you sometimes think your students think you are a walking dictionary and can translate all the words they need from German to English and vice versa?

Yes, you must have the same kind of students as I do, but I've now bought an electronic dictionary which is a lot lighter than a decent paper dictionary, in fact, the manufacturer claims the number of entries it contains are from paper dictionaries weighing about seven kilos.

I bought myself an upmarket model because I teach a lot of ESP courses and am often confronted with words that my students ask me for, but I've never heard of, e.g. entgraten (deburr) or Ducker (inverted siphon).

I've got a Hexaglot Attaché which costs around €200 (if you shop around for it). It is probably one of the most expensive electronic dictionaries on the market, but it does let me put my own 'dictionary' onto an SD card and I can also download other dictionaries. e.g. English - Portuguese, Portuguese - English onto the SD card which I've found useful for holidays.

If you're a freelance English teacher and running from one company to the next with bags full of heavy books, you might find you can reduce your 'workload' without having to cut down on the number of courses you teach.

Have a look at whether there's a good or free electronic dictionary out there for you.

Btw, I'm happy with my dictionary, but I wouldn't recommend/buy it unless you really do need to translate fairly specialised terms and on a regular basis. There are some really good electronic dictionaries out there that cost a third of what I paid.